Issue 1, September 11, 2006

    India’s Continued Hibernation

    As this serious escalation progressed, National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan asserted that India will continue with its ban on the LTTE and has no plans for “direct intervention” in the resumed Civil War. He rejected TN Chief Minister M.K. Karunanidhi’s statement that the ban on LTTE was “debatable” and said that it was a “dangerous organization” but posed little danger to India as it would like to get its support. Narayanan said that India will not “involve itself” because of “past experience” but promised that it was “extending all cooperation.” Not specifying what cooperation the nation was extending, Narayan said that the “Lankan government is very sensitive in going ahead with the devolution of power to the Tamils” as “they have problems in dealing with the LTTE.”  

    Referring to his discussions with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Narayanan said that from India ’s perspective “the importance of safety and security of the Tamils, devolution of powers, and distinction between LTTE and other Tamils” was important. It is not clear if Sri Lanka agrees with the distinction between the LTTE and the Tamils or whether it was a Lankan Government position that has been adopted by India . In either case, this is a dangerous trend as it means that the Lankan Government can now argue that it does not need to talk to the LTTE since it does not talk for the Lankan Tamils. Even a cursory conversation with any Lankan Tamil will show that they view the LTTE as their primary negotiator although this position seems to be eroding among Muslim Tamils, Indian-origin Tamils, and Tamils in the East. 

    In this new run up to violence, the SLG had authorized the SLA to use any means necessary include brutal ones to overrun the LTTE. For example, the SLG recently killed in custody 17 aid workers of a French non-government organization and initially tried to hide this crime and later did not even tender an apology. In another incident, the air force bombed a school killing scores of children claiming that these were child warriors and therefore legitimate targets. Both these incidents have angered the population in TN causing the normally divided State Assembly to pass a unanimous motion to condemn these attacks in the harshest terms. 

    The TN population was also angered by two insensitive policy decisions which had to be quickly backtracked. One was the reported sale of 2 radars to SLA and another is the training of SL policemen in counter-insurgency operations within TN. In both cases, the strongest protest led to a quick apology and reversal of policy. These two recent incidents show a lack of coordination and appreciation of the consequences of wrong turns to India . Even earlier, the nation had created policy that has been insensitive to TN such as the Indira-Srimavo Maritime Agreement ceding Kachithivu to Sri Lanka , training of LTTE rebels in TN, creation of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, etc. All these decisions have failed and need not have if the stakeholders in the South been consulted.
    Emerging Patterns
    Studying the developments of the last few years, the following patterns emerge:
    1.      Neither the SLG nor the LTTE appear to be serious about making peace and look for the slightest excuse to break Agreements
    2.      Years of this behavior has eroded trust levels to zero
    3.      Any solution that may be proposed or implemented, needs to be backed by guarantees that are strong and intractable
    4.      Only a military and economic stalemate encourages parties to want to negotiate peace
    5.      Both the SLG and the LTTE have violent streaks that do not hesitate to kill their own populations to root out dissension, eliminate opposition, and coerce support
    6.       Both sides are incapable of honoring agreements, following norms, or accepting responsibility.
    Indian Interests in Resolving Crisis
    Despite these very harsh realities, India cannot afford to stay a silent spectator for the following reasons:
    1. 1. As fighting escalates, the influx of refugees to India will be high therefore affecting the economy, security, and stability of TN which is an economic frontline state
    2. 2. With both groups acquiring more weapons, there will be 2 air forces, 2 navies, and 2 ground troops to deal with
    3. 3. As India refuses to engage militarily, there are increasingly credible reports of Pakistani military and counter-insurgency advisors in SL. Pakistan could also send its dreaded {Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)} to SL and instigate the nascent Muslim armed militias to target India
    4. 4. A humanitarian crisis is evolving in India ’s neighborhood. Caught in the vortex of violence, civilians are blockaded and do not have access to food, medicine, and essential supplies. With no human rights groups or aid agencies in the North and East, SLA operates with impunity and commits violations at will. Similarly, the LTTE also extends its own writ on the population. As the suffering of the people escalates, TN will become increasingly vocal in more direct support from India —a situation that the nation is unprepared to take.
    5. 5. Violence in the South seriously destabilizes trade routes to the South. For continued growth of the Indian economy, it cannot afford to have such instabilities along important sea lanes.
    6. 6. India is projecting itself as a strategic global player and has expressed desire to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC). It should assume leadership of a complex problem it has good insight into and has the capability of influencing positive results.
    No matter the urgency for India to be directly involved, India ’s options are limited by the attitude of the warring groups. However, there are options that it can exercise to reduce tensions.
    1. 1. India needs to assume diplomatic leadership to influence peace in Sri Lanka.
      • Firstly, it needs to bring together key nations such as the US , EU, Canada , and Japan into a contact group that can focus on Sri Lanka .

      • Secondly, it needs to draft a UNSC resolution demanding a ceasefire from the SLG and withdrawal to positions before the escalation.

      • Thirdly, the UNSC should prohibit the sale of weapons systems (especially heavy weapons such as artillery, naval and airborne craft) to SLG and LTTE.

      • Fourthly, it should ban military advisors, counter-insurgency operation specialists, and other officer deputation from third countries that could undermine peace.

    2. 2. India should encourage the setting up of a human rights body in Sri Lanka.
      • Firstly, this group must be funded by the National Human Rights Council (NHRC).

      • Secondly, this body will be located in Colombo and staffed by Indian, Japanese, Bhutanese, and Maldivian observers with experience in judiciary, law, police, military, human rights, and non-government activities.

      • Thirdly, this group must expressly demand that the SLG and LTTE desist from direct violations such as rape, custodial torture, custodial death, indefinite detention without charge, enforced disappearances, recruitment of child warriors, targeting civilians and civilian structures, etc.

      • Fourthly, it should create a contact list of SL nationals outside the ambit of the SLG who will review, provide input into, and assist this group to monitor, collect information, and report human rights violations and humanitarian conditions in SL.

      • Fifthly, this group must have strong ties with the NHRC to get best practices and methodologies transferred to it so it can operate efficiently without having to invent many of these processes.

      • Sixthly, India must review this report with the contact group within the UN scope (as defined in (1)) and to decide on future course of action.

      • Seventhly, this group must also set up a process for healing and reconciliation, along the lines of such process in South Africa , where the grievances of population affected have a body to hear their story and seek resolution.

    3. 3. India should develop an unofficial track of dialogue with LTTE.
      • Firstly, this avenue of conversation must be to seek assurance on norms of behavior that conforms to the Geneva Convention.

      • Secondly, it should demand that the LTTE does not use children in war.

      • Thirdly, it should receive human rights violations data input from the LTTE.

      • Fourthly, it should confront the group with data showing its violations.

      • Fifthly, discuss means by which the LTTE can participate democratically. After all, other insurgent rebel groups such as the Irish Republican Army in Ireland , Palestine Liberation Organization through Fattah in Palestinian Territories , Basque separatists in Spain , Hamas in Palestine Territories , Hezbollah in Lebanon , and Maoists in Nepal have participated in democracy.

    4. 4. India needs a contact group in South India to guide its Sri Lanka policies.
      • Firstly, India must not make Sri Lanka policies in isolation and only from New Delhi .

      • Secondly, it should include a group of people from South India that would include politicians, academics, think tanks, journalists, human rights groups, analysts, and researchers to help it monitor, define, and refine its Sri Lankan policy.

      • Thirdly, it needs to periodically expand this contact group with similar individuals from Sri Lanka to increase people-to-people contact and learning.

    5. 5. India needs to sensitize the SLG on the various facets in resolving the issue with the Tamils. Ceasefire, Ceasefire monitoring, humanitarian issues, development, and Constitutional reform are different elements that can be solved separately but in parallel. It needs to impress on Sri Lanka to proceed on all these fronts in parallel and use different means.
      • Firstly, to address Ceasefire, the SLG and LTTE have to be ready for this in the true spirit. This may come with confidence building measures such as respecting the ceasefire line, regular flag meetings between local commanders, local review of instances, an arbitration process, etc.

      • Secondly, to monitor Ceasefire, a monitoring mission needs to be created and this could be drawn from neutral African, South American, and Asian nations. These observers can also be allowed oversight rights of territory and be local arbitrators.

      • Thirdly, Humanitarian issues need to be addressed immediately and can be as described in (2).

      • Fourthly, a development framework need to be worked out to ensure that rebuilding of the nation, however modest, is re-started. However, this must not be done by providing large amounts to the Government unless closely monitored since the SLG has the proclivity to divert funds to beef up its military.

      • Fifthly, a Constitutional reform process has already been started in SL and exploring options in Federalism, asymmetrical power structures, and such. While a long-term reform is being worked out, India must demand that Sri Lanka adopt Clause 3 of Geneva Convention into its laws so human rights violations can be prosecuted and the guilty punished. Currently, SL laws do not have this provision. It should also demand that pending a final Constitution, SL should introduce a modern Bill of Rights that will safeguard the lives and fundamental rights of civilians. SL could also create a national commission that overseas the interests of minorities and this could provide a forum for addressing issues of minorities.

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